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Big Brands Urged to Set Sail in San Francisco

In America's Cup, Branding, Business, Naming, Sailing, San Francisco, Trademarks on October 4, 2010 at 10:22 pm

There’s a very good chance that when the next edition of the America’s Cup race is run, the boats will be sailing in San Francisco Bay. And Bay Area-based brands may be a large part of the reason why.

The BMW Oracle boat in the second race of this year's America Cup

Last February, during the most famous race to sail the high seas, the winner was BMW Oracle Racing. The team, backed by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, not only won the namesake trophy but also the right to choose where the next race is to take place. That won’t be until 2013, which gives the lead contending cities — Valencia, Spain; a site in Italy; and San Francisco, California — a fighting chance to make themselves pretty before a choice is made. And “fighting” is the operative word.

According to the San Francisco Examiner, “San Francisco is facing tough competition from the other locations, which are offering major public subsidies that could potentially be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a memo from the Mayor’s Office. The competition to host the prestigious event is stiff because the regatta is expected to produce more than a billion dollars in revenue for the host.”

In these tough economic times, that’s not money to sneeze at. And so it is that the America’s cup is being given very serious consideration. On Tuesday, Mayor Gavin Newsome discussed a framework of a financial and land agreement between the City By The Bay and the BMW Oracle Team. San Francisco would hand over three properties on the southeastern waterfront — Piers 30-32, 50, and seawall lot 330 for free. The America’s Cup team would also enjoy long-term rights to develop the properties.

The team, however would shell out $150 million in immediate structural improvements, seismic refitting, and whatever else is necessary to bring the area back to commercial viability.

Here’s where the local businesses, industries, and their attendant brands really stand to gain some international exposure. The city promised the America’s Cup team that they would beat the drum to raise in the neighborhood of $270 million in corporate sponsorships. And, as if to demonstrate the true power of a brand, state Democrats and Republicans are putting aside their differences in order to work together to bring the America’s Cup to the San Francisco shore. What’s good for the city is good for the state, it seems.

And in order for the city’s good name to win the day — and the running of the next America’s Cup — it’s going to take the hard work and a lot of money of the companies behind some of the Bay Area’s best known brands. From high tech to biotech, from sports marks to bike works, everyone’s going to be on the hook to help bring the America’s Cup back home.

Ultimately, the question may come down to the power of America’s brands. The other venues will be pulling equally hard for the honor of hosting the next race, and it stands to reason their home team brands will be out there, strutting their stuff. Until the boats involved are actually in competition, it’s likely to be all about “may the best brands win!”

— David Placek

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